Whitney Allison played with a burning zeal for soccer. She coaches with just as intense a fire.
It’s nicely appropriate that Allison has one more game in which to coach the Conway High School girls soccer team — and that game is the 7A state title game today in which the Lady Cats will try to repeat as state champs.
Allison is leaving coaching after today’s game to do something she has put off for three years in order to keep a lingering flame burning for sport the young women she has mentored.
She’s headed Charlotte, N.C. for Charlotte Law School.
The fact that she has postponed her career path shows her dedication to this year’s group, many of whom she has watched grow up.
"I have 11 seniors whom I am extremely close to, and I was not going to leave before their senior year; I wanted to see them through," she said.
Most of Allison’s submitted reports about this year’s team have been laced with the language of a romance novel.
And this has been a developing love story. She loves Conway. She loves her team. She loves soccer.
Here are excerpts from some of comments. We don’t have to tell you to look for the passion. It hits you in the face:
"My dad tells me that champions always find a way to win ... My girls prove that theory over and over again; they fight, they dig deep and keep going until they get the job done. They play with a winning midndset and it’s quite impressive to witness. It’s almost like the will to win is embedded into their character .. . The team element and spirit is so vital on the field and it is very inspirational to see my girls play with and for each other every game."
"I will never forget the way I feel tonight (after gaining another berth in the state title game)! The word ‘proud’ doesn’t do justice to how I feel after watching my girls today ... The way my girls slid, threw their bodies, blocked shots, and busted their butt making runs and helping each other, you could tell losing wasn’t an option for them."
"... Times like that bring tears to my eyes and remind me how lucky I am to coach such a remarkable bunch of individuals that come together to form a legendary team."
Today’s 2 p.m. match against Bentonville (on the field in Fayetteville where Allison played soccer for the Razorbacks) will be a bittersweet rite of passage for everyone.
"I’m so happy that I get one more game with my girls!" she said. "One more game to coach them and watch them play.I am very happy with the team effort and individual performances from our two state tournament games so far.
"One more to go."
Win or lose, a good supply of tissue is recommended.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 for firstname.lastname@example.org)